The Grammy production team, led by executive producer Ken Ehrlich, spends months mapping out the show. But real life has a way of intruding. Earlier this week, we told you about eight last-minute surprises, dramas, mishaps, and even tragedies that had to be dealt with. (In case you missed it, here's a link). But that just scratched the surface. Here are eight more.
[Related: Strangest Grammy Nominations of All Time]
February 2002: Michael Jackson came close to agreeing to perform on the show for the first time since his show-stopping performance of "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Man In The Mirror" in 1988. The only problem: He wanted to get some kind of honorary award in return. The Recording Academy refused to play that game. The performance didn't happen. P.S. In January 2010, seven months after he died, Jackson got his award from the Grammys—a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Feb. 25, 1998: Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion were set to perform their nominated duet "Tell Him" at Radio City Music Hall. Two days before the show, Streisand got sick and couldn't make rehearsals. The day before the show, with Streisand no better, the producers asked Dion to instead sing her then-current smash "My Heart Will Go On." The morning of the show, Streisand was feeling better and said she would be able to do it after all. Dion, a trouper, agreed to switch back to "Tell Him." Then Streisand learned that her hair and make-up people, believing it was off, had already flown back to L.A. Streisand cancelled. Dion sang "My Heart Will Go On." Would the duet have made anyone forget the legendary 1963 TV clip of Judy Garlandand Streisand? Probably not. But it might well have made a nice bookend to that sequence.
Feb. 26, 1997: After mulling it over for a few weeks, Bruce Springsteen turned down an offer to perform on the show in the year that "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" was nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Five days before the show, Ehrlich ran into Springsteen at a Sheryl Crow concert and made a pitch in person. This violates protocol, where all contacts are supposed to go through managers. The next morning, Ehrlich heard from Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau. "So you talked to my client about doing the Grammys, huh? Ken, you know better than to do that, don't you?" Landau was just giving Ehrlich a hard time. In the next breath he said "He'll do it." Introduced on the show by his hero, Pete Seeger, Springsteen performed the title track from the album and won the Grammy.
Feb. 26, 1997: Host Ellen DeGeneres was set to open the show with a piece of special material dubbed "Ellen's Grammy Song." The Grammys' TV committee and the head of the Academy disliked the piece. Just two hours before airtime, the show's producer and director were sent to inform DeGeneres that the number was being dropped. (That's very late to make such a major change—especially one that might throw your host off her game.) DeGeneres' people replied that, in that case, she wouldn't do the show. The Academy backed down. DeGeneres did the number. She did the show. And she left immediately after the show and never again agreed to host the Grammys.
Feb. 21, 1990: Dick Clark, who was executive producer of the arch-rival "American Music Awards," received a Trustees Award honoring his unmatched career of putting music on TV. Clark handed his acceptance speech to the Grammys' teleprompter operator. Somehow, it got lost and didn't appear on the prompter. Clark was forced to wing it on live TV. He left the Shrine Auditorium convinced it was a deliberate slight. The Grammys swear it wasn't and argue that Clark, more than anyone, should have known that snafus can happen on live television.
Feb. 25, 1986: Phil Collins, arguably the hottest artist in pop that year, was set to participate in a jazz segment. Collins was a fan of jazz players, especially fellow drummer Buddy Rich, who also would be in the segment. But everybody knew that the main reason Collins was added to the spot was because of his pop name power. At a rehearsal the Saturday before the show, some of the jazz players bristled at his presence. Collins could sense the tension and graciously bowed out. Collins had a pretty good Grammy night anyway, winning three awards, including Album of the Year.
Feb. 28, 1984: Donna Summer was set to open the show with her great hit "She Works Hard For The Money." But her limo stalled blocks away from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Summer, dressed in the pink waitress outfit she would wear during the number, hopped out of the limo and sprinted to the Shrine on foot. (I guess you could say she worked hard for the money.)
March 3, 1973: Curtis Mayfield performed his top 10 hit "Freddie's Dead (Theme From 'Superfly')." The Grammys had rented a smoke machine to give the number extra drama. But somebody must have set the machine on "High," because fog enveloped the first few rows of the Tennessee Theatre in Nashville. It was so thick that the audience couldn't see Mayfield—and, of course, neither could the camera.
Here's one more, pertaining to the Latin Grammy Awards.
Sept. 11, 2001. The Second Annual Latin Grammy Awards were set to air live from the Shrine Auditorium. Needless to say, the show was cancelled.
I drew many of the anecdotes in this report and my previous one from Ehrlich's 2007 book, "At The Grammys! Behind The Scenes At Music's Biggest Night."
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